As a young child, Mountain Pointe High School alumus and current Arizona Diamondback Kevin Cron always had the opportunity to attend spring training.
“Growing up that was something that was always special with my family,” Cron said. “Being able to go visit my dad at spring training over spring break or whenever it may be. That was one of my favorite times of the year growing up.”
Now, after spending all those years attending spring training as an observer, Kevin will finally have the opportunity to participate in his first big league spring training after earning a non-roster invitation earlier this month.
His non-roster invite comes after one of the best seasons of his career. He joined Paul Goldschmidt and Jake Lamb as the only Diamondbacks to ever win the Southern League Most Valuable Player award after hitting for a .283 clip and leading the league in home runs (25), extra-base hits (60) and RBI (91).
“Anytime your name can be in the same breath as guys like that, it’s pretty special. And, obviously, they have done a lot with their careers, (since) winning that award, and I would love to do the same,” Cron said.
To go along with his Southern League MVP, Cron also won the Diamondbacks Minor League Player of the Year. That award meant a little more to Cron, as the Diamondbacks allowed him to call his father – a hitting coordinator with the organization – and break the news himself.
“Them allowing me to tell my dad I won the award, rather than him being involved in the decision and being able to call him and tell him like any other player, that was pretty special for me,” Cron said.
His success has been a long time coming.
Cron was drafted out of high school in 2011 by the Seattle Mariners. After deciding to attend college instead, Cron chose Texas Christian University where he continued to play the sport he loves. He started in 159 games and hit for a .271 career average, hit 14 home runs and knocked in 91 RBI over his three years.
In his first three professional seasons, Cron displayed his ability to hit the long ball, crushing 65 home runs over that span. After hitting 25 home runs in 2017, he became the first player since 1975 to lead the Southern League in home runs in back-to-back seasons.
As he has steadily increased his performance over his four years in the league, Cron said he has taken every offseason as an opportunity to improve.
While some adjustments may be physical from time to time, Cron said, one major adjustment was on the mental side of hitting.
“I tried to simplify it the best way I could, and a lot of my adjustments were more mental than physical,” he said. “To me, that goes a much longer way than the physical adjustments, just having something you can be confident in every single day.”
That mental adjustment showed in 2017.
Through the first 10 games of the season, Cron walked six times and hit four home runs. That patience at the plate carried on throughout the season as he finished with a career-high in walks by 23. Cron said plenty of friends and family reached out to him, to tell him they were noticing the difference.
“They were telling me they had never seen me in that capacity. They had never seen me approach my at-bats the way I did in that first week,” Cron said.
And his coaches noticed as well.
“He has worked his butt off. Obviously, it translates to the offseason and everything he went through last year in this league. He came back and he dominated the league,” hitting coach Jason Camilli told jacksongeneralsbaseball.com.
“He’s a smart kid. He learns from his mistakes. He grows from them, and he does a really good job of not repeating those mistakes,” Camilli added.
All of Cron’s hard work has paid off, and he couldn’t be happier.
“This was another one of those special things for me and its always a great opportunity to have eyes on you at all times and learn from some of the game’s best players,” Cron said. “It will be a great experience and I am really looking forward to it.”